BELIEVE it or not, there are reasons to care about this last preseason game. This is the game where the roster gets rounded out with all of your “TIWL”depth. If you don’t know what that is, it’s fine, because I just now coined the term. As in right this instant. Use it early, use it often. One day you’ll be able to tell your friends that you were using “TIWL” back before Joe Theismann heard it and began using it wrong in every broadcast.
What “TIWL” stands for is “This Is What’s Left”. Every so often a team finds themselves starting a guy they kept on the roster with no real intent to ever have him do anything other than hold a clipboard or play Special Teams. Then injuries mount and sometime in late October, early November, the team is forced to start one or six of those guys. Speaking of TIWL players, the guy in the picture is Tim Tebow.
When you don’t get a good look at your TIWL players, you get what happened to the giants in the game that Odelina Beckham was suspended for last year. They had to start a WR (Randle) who couldn’t even make our roster as a 3rd stringer this year. You saw what happened when the Cowboys had to rely on their 3rd string QB. Need I say (Kellen) Moore? When you don’t get a deep look at the back end of your roster, you can get stuck with guys who can’t play. Or worse, you might give away guys who can.
Now let’s talk about the Four Things we need to look for in this next preseason game!
1) Special Teams needs to look special. There is no back-up Special Teams unit. So the guys we’ll be relying on weeks 1 through 17, are the guys who’ll play on Thursday. They need to use the game as real practice. Making sure their communication is clean, that every man knows his responsibility, and that they don’t allow a blocked punt again Ed Reynolds.
2) Seeing who earns the #3 Offensive Tackle job. We talk a lot about RB Ryan Mathews getting injured, but you know who else spends a fair amount of time on the shelf? LT Jason Peters. Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai (I can’t believe I can already spell that without having to double-check it), looked horrible vs the Buccaneers a few weeks ago. Will Vaitai or Matt Tobin lay clear claim to the #3 spot? Will either man’s play push Allen Barbre at RT?
3) Can Cedric O’Neal make a case for himself? He was cut, but he was brought back after rookie RB Wendell Smallwood came up small prior to getting injured last week. RB Byron Marshall has shown little in the way of speed, elusiveness or the ability to break even the slightest tackle. If O’Neal (who also offers short yardage bulk), can show potential behind a second string O-line, then either Marshall or Smallwood may soon find themselves wearing a different jersey.
4) Empty the pantry. We need to see some guys get more time than they’ve had, in order to be sure that we aren’t releasing or otherwise overlooking talent right under our noses. (I’m still annoyed that we didn’t draft Lee Woodall in 1994, despite all that we knew about him, that other teams didn’t, because they couldn’t know.) Guys like O’Neal, LB’s Quentin Gause and Don Cherry, WR David Watford, G Darrell Greene, and rejuvenated DE Marcus Smith; all need long looks before a decision to cut them is made.
This is the game where we get to make sure that we don’t give away talent, and that our TIWL shelf has guys who you can feel good about, if they get pressed into starting. (TIWL shelf. See what I did there?)